Sunday, October 18, 2015
Fire at the Edge of Hell
When I shot these folks last year, I didn't have a speed light. I didn't think I needed one.
I recently picked up a used Nikon SB-800 so I could supply some light of my own instead of letting available light determine whether I could get a good shot.
There's a definite learning curve to it, as there always is with a powerful tool. It's not exactly cutting edge technology, they haven't made this model since 2007, but the nature of light didn't fundamentally change in the last eight years and I saved a fortune not getting a new SB-910 instead. Radio activation would be nice, sometimes on this shoot the speed light didn't fire because the sensor couldn't see the pop-up flash commanding it—so I had to be mindful of where the sensor was when I placed the light, and make sure I didn't step where I was out of range of the sensor.
Another thing that would be good is to have more diffusion. There's a diffuser on the flash, but I was still getting really harsh shadows in some of these shots because I didn't have a good surface to bounce the flash off of. Toward the end I did try just bouncing it off the ground with a white reflector on the ground, though my reflector was too small for the job. I picked this one for being small enough to fit in my camera bag on the bike. Alternately, if I had a sheet or something like that to diffuse the light, that would have helped.
I forgot to take my UV filter off. It's generally a good thing to have on at all times because it amounts to a scratch guard for the lens itself. But when shooting fire in the dark, you get weird artifacts that are the light reflecting off the filter.
All in all I got some shots I like better than what I got last year. And some that I'm still pretty frustrated with. And some that I might not be in love with, but there's something I like about them.
What I didn't count on was the management of the Edge of Hell haunted house, outside which Sparacus and Nikki were performing, hassling me. Not a lot, and it took them like an hour to get around to it, so I'm not saying they were being dicks about it, but a woman named Amber came up at one point and asked me if I'd asked permission to shoot, and I'm like, from who? And she said, 'me.' That they need to know who is shooting their characters and what I planned to do with the pictures.
Then right after I satisfied her with some contact info and assurances that I'd share my images with them, I got the same thing from the general manager, who I recognized as the Rat Guy from years past. Partly because I like the guy, I went along, and partly because it doesn't make any sense to fight with them about it: I don't mind sharing my images with them, even if they absolutely have no grounds to demand I do so.
When I say they have no grounds, I'm not saying I don't understand why the Edge of Hell would be nervous about someone shooting pics. Never mind that they seem to encourage their patrons to pose with characters for phone pics and whatnot, they don't want a competitor coming in and scoping things out too well, for instance. Fair enough. But I was in a public street, not on their property and so where their performers. So push comes to shove, I don't need their permission and have no obligation to share my images from a legal standpoint. On the other hand, they could send the performers home for the night or simply tell them to lay off until I left, which would hurt the performers, deprive me of shots, and generally be a shitty situation.
I was a little surprised when right after satisfying Amber, I was confronted by the manager of the haunted house. It took a minute for me to decide if he was just fucking with me for a joke, actually. I recognized him as the Rat Guy who used to work to work the crowd waiting in line. They have a new rat guy now, and he was being serious. And again, partly because it wasn't a fight worth having, and partly because I like the guy, I just gave him my name and contact info, as well as my assurances that I wasn't there for industrial espionage or whatever.
And at that point he warmed up and even said if I wanted to shoot inside there or the Beast sometime, just let him know in advance and something could be worked out. Which I think means I played it right, my friends didn't get in trouble, I might get the chance to shoot some interesting stuff inside the haunted houses, nobody's pissed off.